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Thomas Jefferson and French Neoclassicism Thomas Jefferson was born at Shadwell in Albemarle County, Va. on the thirteenth of April in 1743. His father, Peter Jefferson, was a wealthy land owner, but not really high up. He married Jane Randolph Jefferson who was from one of the first families in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson had a house named Monticello, which was built on his fathers land, in which he put a great deal of time.
In 1772 he brought Martha Unless Skelton, his wife, there. He had only two children who lived through infancy, but he had six altogether. When his wife died after ten years of marriage he went to Paris to get away from it all. Some say that in Paris he fell in love with another women and thats why he always supported the French, even through the bloody revolution (Crow, 90). Precisely it was during Jefferson time when neoclassicism was popular in France.
Jefferson did a great job introducing it to the American land. Jefferson was elected President in a very close match with Aaron Burr. When the votes were counted each had seventy-three votes so it had to be decided by the House of Representatives. Jefferson was obviously declared the winner (Donahue, 34).
He was not a very outspoken man like his predecessors had been. In fact, he dressed rather casual, never wore a wig, and disliked public speaking which is probably why he didnt address congress in person. He loved Paris and all facets about it. He enjoyed fine cuisine, neoclassicism and wine. Jefferson did not believe in slavery, but did not free his slaves as had Washington.
In his inaugural address, he said they were all Republicans, all Federalists in their devotion to the union, in an attempt to bury the differences between his opponents and him. Jefferson, in his inaugural address, promised: 1. equal and exact justice to all men of every shade of political and religious opinion; 2. friendship with all nations, but no alliances; 3.
respect for the rights of all states while still presenting the constitutional vigor of the national government; 4. encouragement of agriculture and commerce; 2 5. freedom of speech, press, and elections 6. economy and honesty in the management of the countrys finances. Jefferson was not a dumb man, he knew he had to have a bigger support base. In order to do this, he followed a moderate course of action to win some Federalists over to the Republicans side (Crow, 93).
He wanted to reduce the national debt by reducing the army and navy. He hand picked only the most brilliant people for his cabinet. His cabinet included: 1. Secretary of State: The architect of the constitution, James Madison and; 2. Secretary of the Treasury: A financier from Pennsylvania, Swiss-born Albert Gallatin. Gallatin, following Jefferson's ideas, came up with a budget that made about seventy percent go to paying off the debt which meant that defense money was cut in half.
He also came up with a new five year naturalization act. The Alien and Sedition Acts and the excise tax, which had started the Whiskey Rebellion, were repealed. The Bank and tariff were allowed to continue, though. While Jefferson was in office he was hassled by the Barbary pirates like every other country.
He decided to do something about it (Donahue, 36). The Barbary pirates were asking for more and more presents, so Jefferson sent some warships to tell the pirates off. They got the message, but at a lower rate. The problem wasnt really solved until the French captured Algiers in 1830 (Crow, 94).
Jefferson also saw the Mississippi was a very, very important river. He thought that he would have to deal with Spain, but Napoleon, from France, bought the Louisiana Territory for his own plans. When Jefferson heard about this, he sent Monroe and Livingston to just buy the area around the mouth of the Mississippi, but, when they got there, Napoleons plans for invading Haiti were foiled so he was willing to sell 3 the WHOLE Louisiana area! ! Monroe and Livingston snatched up the deal for $ 15 million before Napoleon could change his mind. They could only hope they were supported when they got back. Jefferson asked Congress to approve the money and showed the strength to go against everything hes preached and went for broad construction instead of his usual strict construction.
Congress approved the money and, since they were already planning an expedition behind Spain's back, they sent an expedition to go exploring. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were chosen for this (Donahue, 38). They started out in 1804 with about 40 men and hired a guide and interpreter. They made it to the Pacific and then claimed the land.
Pike was also exploring around this time. When Jefferson came to office he found some commissions for new judges which Adams had literally signed the night before he left office (Donahue, 39). Jefferson refused to give them out and a man named Mar bury, who was one of the appointees, took them to court. When the supreme court came back with its decision, it set a precedent that was followed ever since. The supreme court decided that the law that says that a govt official has to hand out the commissions was unconstitutional.
The constitution said nowhere in it that the supreme court could call something unconstitutional, but Jefferson was happy he didnt have to appoint them so he shut his mouth. So, as you can see Jefferson did a lot of great things as President of the United States. His popularity didnt start there though. He was on the committee of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote several essays on the constitution.
So as the reader can see, Jefferson was a great man (Crow, 98). Neoclassicism is a European style of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its elegant, balanced works revived the order and harmony of ancient Greek and Roman art. David and Canova are examples of neoclassicists and their stylistic art and design certainly is united under common use of imagery and ideas.
The neoclassicism is also known to the humanity as the age of reason and enlightenment that happened during 1650 and 1780. The neoclassicism shows remarkable traditions and values that it had inherited from the countries of its origin, namely Greece and Italy. The neoclassicism after the decay of baroque art achieved remarkable results in literature and art (Donahue, 39). The style concentrated on the issues of balance, restraint, unity, discipline, unity and order in the use of epic, satire and tragedy. Neoclassicist thought that literature was a part of art.
It is for this reason the importance of study, attention to details and practice cannot be underestimated. The common use of imagery and ideas were was to instruct the use of reason over emotion (Thompson, 12). Here one should note that Neoclassicism dominated the arts from about 1750 until the mid- 19 th century. Neoclassicism dominated France during Napoleonic times. It originated in Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany and was spread throughout the rest of Europe as far as Russia and to the United States. One also has to remember that the term neoclassicism, describes works heavily influenced by the art of classical antiquity.
Neoclassicism was a sound reaction against the perkiness of the previous generation of rococo artists. The neoclassicists also hated the extravagant excesses of 17 th-century baroque art and architecture and presented neoclassicism as a revolutionary movement in the style, imagery, ideas and movement (Brown, 68). One has to also remember that Classical antiquity had been an important model for European artists since the Renaissance, but in the mid- 18 th century its influence became particularly strong. This taste for Greek and Roman art was stimulated by fresh discoveries, travels, and publications in the field of archaeology that could not but find their application and reflection in art and music.
Excavations at Herculaneum, Pompeii, and elsewhere in Italy, aimed at the discovery of new revolutionary movement, produced a wealth of fresh material for the study of antiquity (Ricardo, 43). Speaking about the importance of theoretical background and revolutionary thought one should remember that theoretical treatises also contributed to the rise of neoclassicism, especially those of the German antiquarian and scholar Johann Winckelmann, who spent many years in Rome, Italy and Athens, Greece (Peters, 23). Winckelmann loved the "noble simplicity and calm grandeur" of Greek art and believed that modern artists should not produce mere copies of classical works but should rather emulate the ancients by observing nature through their eyes. An early exponent of Winckelmann's Neoclassical art and design of the second half of the XVIII century that contributed to the common imagery and ideas was influenced by another German emigrant, Anton Raphael Mengs, an antiquarian and portrait painter who tried to soften the severity of Winckelmann's neoclassicism. Mengs tried to complement with the Italian Raphaelian design the tempering Greek art, color and design (Thompson, 15).
I would also like to note some of the major painters who created remarkable neoclassical images and masterpieces that are of great value even today. Among them Jacques Louis David, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres who worked primarily on the history issues and subjects. The peculiarity in the neoclassicist art is seen in the prevailing idea that art should not only please the eye, but also instruct the human mind and contribute to creative thinking. This belief was applicable not only to people but also to the artists, painters, and sculptors of the neo-classical period (Brown, 70). With such idea and notion prevalent to the neo-classicism the neoclassical artists used acceptable events to create portraits, landscapes and other masterpieces. The paintings of that period started to build up on each other starting probably with Poussin and the Greek and Roman antiques the masterpieces were meant to create some impulses and positive ideas in the minds of the viewers.
The Roman and Greek temples together with the art of Andrew Palladio were used as an example for neoclassical artists and followers (Ricardo, 49). The neoclassical second phase that continued from 1770 - 1825 made more direct use of classical sources. Despite the growing knowledge of genuine Greek art, neoclassicism remained essentially Roman in character until after about 1790. Before then, the strict simplicity of Greek vase painting and of Doric architecture had been too uncompromising for European and American taste (Brown, 78). The heroic spirit of Greek and Roman art played a major role in neoclassical art depicting the scenes of heroic crusades and ancient life. The third and last phase of neoclassicism that happened from 1825 till 1850 artists and designers sought inspiration, from a great diversity of sources, including other ancient cultures such as those of Egypt, Persia, and India, as well as that of medieval Europe.
Neoclassicism still reflected the affluent lives of the French who started to follow more secular life styles. This last phase saw the degeneration and decline of neoclassicism, although as an architectural style it continued to be used throughout the rest of the century for such public buildings as banks, museums, and railroad stations. This common imagery of ideas defined style of neoclassicism and presented it the way it was today (Ricardo, 48). In the 18 th century that was characterized by the Neo classicism. In this period most of all paintings had the same characteristic which are dark and simple background colors, very masculine, stressed heroism, frieze, sharp edges, more geometric and flat. As one can see in Jean Ingres painting The Turkeys Slave, the viewer could see from the simple background and the very sharp edges of her body.
The man in the neoclassicism represents the masculine (manly) and sort of heroism things, even though the background color in that genre is clear and bright but its so simple background and has a lot of sharp edges and geometric line (Thompson, 17). The Italian neoclassic critics accepted Aristotle's privileging of the dramatic text and its author, of his making the play the central element in theatre. They also agreed with what came to be known as the three unities: time, place, and action. Aristotle indicates that the action of a play should take place within one revolution of the sun (24 hours), and the neoclassic critics extend this to include the idea that the action must occur within locations that could be reached within a 24 hour period, which meant a maximum of ten or twenty miles. By unity of action the critics confirmed that the plot of a play should follow one and only one action, with no subplots or other diversions. They also confirmed the absolute separation of genres, comedy and tragedy.
As Aristotle indicated, tragedy should depict noble souls, and comedy, ordinary people (Kinney, 181). But the ideas of neoclassicism spread throughout Europe, and took root wherever court theatres were established. They became the ideas of the critics and academics in those societies, and plays were evaluated by how "regular" they were, how closely they followed neoclassic principles (Thompson, 19). In the USA Thomas Jefferson who oftentimes commuted between the USA and France tried to introduce this style to the young nation. I should also note that it is precisely because of Thomas Jefferson that Philadelphia inherited such a great number of art pieces and buildings decorated with the neoclassicism works, while Philadelphia museum of Arts being one of the oldest and richest US museums. I would also like to point out that Italian neoclassic critics began by trying to create a modern form of drama that would be based on the classical critics, most notably Aristotle and his writings about drama in the Poetics.
They ended up with a definition of theatre that was new, and appropriately enough, consistent with the needs of the Italian princes and popes who were sponsoring theatrical activities. It did so by affirming the nobility of the Prince who was the subject of tragedy, and the virtual worthlessness of the ordinary person who was the subject of comedy. It reflected this hierarchical viewpoint by making the author of the play the central figure in the theatre. And it expressed the validity of concentrating authority by establishing a set of rules for writing a play that could not be disregarded (Ricardo, 41). Now the merit of a play was not to be decided from below, by the spectators who made up the audience for its performance; it was to be decided from above, by a critical authority whose rules were absolute, inflexible, and unchallengeable (Kinney, 186).
Another thing worth noting is that actors after the break of baroque art in France wore their own expensive, contemporary clothing, not costumes appropriate to the characters they impersonated. The detailed portrayal of unique individuals was unimportant to the neoclassical creed, which stipulated that all human nature obeyed the same general laws. There was no need to create an illusion of a specific reality of place or person or time, since where or when events took place had no impact on the behavior that the playwright portrayed. In conclusion I would like to say that in France when members of the royal family attended performances, special seats were raised for their use in the center of the theatre and all the actors directed their efforts to the front. Indeed, in theatres with a stage set up at one end of the room, only those with center seats could really see the whole, a marked contrast to the easier audience access to performances in ancient Greek amphitheatres, medieval town pageants, and Elizabethan theatre-in-the-round.
I should also note that it became common for the wealthiest members of the audience to call attention to their presence at sold-out performances by having extra seating created for them on the stage itself. Thus even if there had been efforts to use elaborate scenery and stage furniture, it would have been difficult to make authentic locations seem convincing. Bibliography: Thompson, Donald, The history of Art, McGraw Hill, 2002. Ricardo, Andrew, The Neoclassical tradition, Prentice Hall, 2001.
Brown, William, Romanticism and Neoclassicism, Penguin Books, 2001. Crow, Peter, The US history, Oxford University Press, 2001. Donahue, Joseph, The life of Thomas Jefferson, Harvard University Press, 2002. Kinney, Robert, The art movements of the XVIII century, NY Random House, 2002. Peters, Ray, The Italian and Greek inheritance, Penguin Books, 2000.
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Research essay sample on Thomas Jefferson And French Neoclassicism